Christi Branscom: Called to Serve
Knoxville native Branscom grew up attending football games with her father, who had attended the University of Tennessee. “My dad was the greatest mentor I’ve had in my life,” Branscom says. “If he went to UT, that’s what I was going to do, too.” While pursuing a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance, she found community at the Haslam College of Business.
Later, Branscom attended law school at the University of Memphis and worked in a private practice for a few years before returning to join the family real estate firm, Partners Development, as general counsel. “I really grew up in real estate,” says Branscom. “During college I worked in leasing and property management, and that’s when the real estate bug bit me.”
Branscom enjoyed working with her father and brother in real estate development for many years. Then, in 2012, her career took an unexpected turn.
Serving the City
Out of the blue, Branscom received a phone call from a senior administrator at the City of Knoxville, asking if she would be interested in joining Mayor Madeline Rogero’s new administration as the senior director of public works. “I was shocked,” says Branscom. While she had been involved in many local community efforts and organizations, public service felt like a big shift. “I found myself saying ‘yes,’” she recalls. “I realized that if I didn’t take on this challenge now, I probably never would. I wanted to be stretched and to understand whether I could be successful in another arena.”
After serving as senior director of public works for a year, Branscom was promoted to deputy mayor/chief operating officer for the city. In 2017, after about six years with the city, Branscom returned to her work at the family real estate firm—but having fallen in love with public service, she was forever changed. “You get infected by it,” she says. “On the local level, especially, you can make a direct, positive impact in your own community.”
Serving the State
Over a year after she’d returned to the family business, Branscom received another life-changing call—from Governor Bill Lee’s transition team.
This time, Branscom already knew she loved public service. She accepted the governor’s appointment as a member of his cabinet and was sworn in as commissioner of general services for the State of Tennessee in early 2019. The department supports the operations of the state and its agencies. General services focuses on providing the most efficient operations possible.
One way the State of Tennessee’s executive branch can do that is with a unified procurement system. “We’re blessed to have centralized procurement of all goods and services,” Branscom explains.
“That way, we’re able to get the absolute best price on anything we purchase because we have that bargaining power.” As commissioner of general services, Branscom officially oversees all purchases the state makes, from ball-point pens to bulldozers.
Managing the state’s real estate and capital programs is a major facet of Branscom’s role. In real estate alone, the state is managing $4 billion across a total of 650 active projects. Some of the larger and more notable projects recently finished include the Tennessee State Museum and the new Tennessee State Library and Archives. Branscom’s office also renovated the John Sevier Office Building, which houses the attorney general’s office, and is working on the War Memorial Building and Legislative Plaza next. “We’ll finish that project in 2025, just in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the War Memorial.”
Governor Bill Lee praises Branscom’s dedicated leadership. “Her efforts landed the Department of General Services three consecutive ‘Top Workplace’ awards from The Tennesseean,” says Lee. “Branscom’s direct engagement with employees recognizes their value to the department and state, and her management skills have been on display as she facilitated major capital projects that will serve the taxpayers of Tennessee well for decades to come.”
Passion for Good Government
Branscom and her team find great satisfaction in seeking efficient solutions wherever they can. Under her leadership, they have reduced the state’s real estate footprint by one million square feet, saving $10 million per year, and are preparing to cut costs further. Branscom’s office is also leading a charge to deploy electric vehicles in the highway patrol, state parks, and other state-owned fleets.
Dedication to her job, her team, and the state’s citizens drives Branscom’s energy for public service. It’s not about political parties—it’s about good government. “If you can operate government efficiently and effectively and save taxpayer dollars, isn’t that what you want?” she says. “You can do a lot of great things and make a lot of money, but I don’t think there is anything more gratifying than public service.”
Brandon Gibson, chief operating officer for the State of Tennessee, became friends with Branscom when the two were part of the Leadership Tennessee program and has appreciated working with her in Nashville since 2019. “She has a keen sense of fairness and cares about people,” says Gibson. “Her focus is always on what is best for Tennesseeans, and when teams are aligned that way, they can be incredibly productive.”
In 2021, Branscom became the first woman to serve as president of the National Association of State Chief Administrators. “Most Tennesseans don’t realize that our state’s government is recognized throughout the nation as a leader in its administrative and executive practices,” says Bransom. “It makes me proud to represent our state nationally because we have very good, smart people working in our executive branch.”
Knoxville lawyer Mark Mamantov has known Branscom for years and worked closely with her during her time at the City of Knoxville. “For a businessperson as talented as Christi to devote much of her professional career to public service is a real testament to the values imbued by the Haslam College of Business in its graduates,” Mamantov says. “She exemplifies the volunteer spirit of our alma mater and is a role model for current students and alumni.”
While fully immersed in public service, Branscom also has stayed connected to the Haslam College of Business. She’s enjoyed speaking to classes and groups, judging competitions, and serving on the Dean’s Advisory Council. “It’s been wonderful to watch the college grow and see the rankings continue to climb,” Branscom says. “I always leave campus feeling very energized because I’ve seen firsthand what a lot of people don’t see—thatmy time and financial investmentsare making a difference. I’m reallyproud to be associated with theHaslam College of Business.”